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WIRED Guide to the commercial flight of man into space

In the morning On December 13, 2018, Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo unfolded on the runway in Mojave, California, ready for takeoff. Whimpering like an ordinary passenger plane, a double-hull catamaran drove past the owner Richard Branson, who stood flapping on the pavement in a flying jacket. But WhiteKnightTwo was not just an airplane: the hook between the two hulls was space The plane called SpaceShipTwo, which became the first private plane that regularly attracts tourists from this planet.

WhiteKnightTwo rumbled and rose, preparing to rise to a height of 50,000 feet. From this height, the jet will release the SpaceShipTwo; two of his pilots launched the engines and raised the ship into space.

"3 … 2 … 1 …" the words came over the radio.

SpaceShipTwo fell like a smooth stone, for free.

“Fire, fire,” said the dispatcher.

At command, the flames fired from the engines of the ship. Contrast trail smoked in the folds of the mountains, when the spacecraft took off up and up and up. Soon both the trace and the fire ceased: SpaceShipTwo was just floating. The arch of the earth curved through its window, against the blackness of the rest of the universe. A dangling snowflake-shaped ornament on a dashboard spun in cabin microgravity.

“Welcome to space,” said the base. And with this, Virgin Galactic managed its first astronauts, who were not government-sponsored old heroes, but private citizens working in a private company.

For most of the history of space flight, people left such exploits to governments. From the middle of the century, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo to the 30-year NASA shuttle program dominated the United States space missions. But today, companies run by powerful billionaires – who have made big money in other industries and now use them to make dreamy eyes – take the torch or at least part of its fire.

Virgin Galactic, for its part, is shaping itself as a tourist equipment, and people hoping for it often speak of a philosophical upsurge — a shift in perspective that occurs when people view the Earth as a real planet in real space. Other companies want to help create a permanent residence on the Moon and / or Mars, and they sometimes talk about fate and salvation. There are many indications of the strength of the human spirit and the unstoppable exploratory nature of our species.

But let's not forget, of course, that theoretically you can make money; and the federal government no longer controls the astronauts. After the shutdown of the shuttle program in 2011, the United States was no longer able to send people into space and since then has relied on Russia. But that will change soon: today two private companies – Boeing and SpaceX – have signed contracts for delivering people to the International Space Station.

But even before NASA’s program to send people into space began to shrink, business magnates knew what they could do if they had their own private rockets. They could ship cargo to the Space Station for a budgetary government. They could launch satellites. They could take tourists on suborbital walks. They can contribute to the development of industrial infrastructure in open space. They could inhabit the moon and mars. People can become species that challenge the space and time, which they always had to be, and often travel – or even live a long time – far from Earth. This is exciting: after all, science fiction – this great predictor and creator of the future – has told us for decades that space is the next (last) frontier, and we must (will, we can) not only leave, but also live there.

Private space companies are taking small steps towards this long-term, large-scale presence in space, and 2019 promises more than most years. But the terms continue to be reduced: like cold synthesis, a private journey of a man into space is constantly just around the corner. Perhaps part of the backlog is that a person’s private journey into space – and especially extended Private flights into space are practically an unproven business model, and most of these companies make the most of their money in enterprises that have little in common with people: often, operations that generate revenue here and now include buying up satellites and not delivering sending people away But since the most promising plans are supported by billionaires with big plans and, in a sense, are aimed at other rich people, science fiction can nevertheless become a cosmic fact.

The history of private human space flight

Today, the capitalists of the space jet complex call their industry New Space, although in earlier times the foremost thinkers spoke of "". We can say that it all began in 1982, when Space Services launched the first private rocket: a modified Minuteman rocket, which it dubbed Conestoga I (after the van, would you get it?). The flight was just a demonstration, which used a 40-pound dummy. But two years later, the United States adopted the Act on the launch into the commercial space of 1984, clearing the site for more private activities.

Human passengers climbed aboard in 2001 when a financier named Dennis Tito bought a seat on the Russian Soyuz rocket and took a nearly eight-day vacation to the space station for $ 20 million. Space Adventures, which organized this expensive flight, would have continued to send six more astrodiletants to orbit through the Russian Space Agency.

In the same year, a guy named Elon Musk, who was going to get rich on the sale of PayPal, announced a plan called Mars Oasis. With his numerous money, he wanted to increase public support for the population on the Red Planet, so that public pressure would prompt Congress to charge a mission to Mars. Through the organization he created, called Life on Mars, the Mask Foundation offered the following privately-funded starter shot: Mars landing gear worth $ 20 million with a greenhouse that could be filled with Martian land, which could be launched, possibly 2005

6.8 billion dollars

The potential cost of NASA's SpaceX and Boeing contracts for the delivery of astronauts to the space station and back.

Note that this has never happened, in part because launch such a future garden was so high. The American rocket would have cost him $ 65 million (about $ 92 million in 2018), and the reconstructed Russian ICBM would cost about $ 10 million. A year later, Musk decided to lower the missile barrier. Switching from a “foundation” to a “corporation”, he founded the SpaceX rocket company with the apparent end goal of housing on Mars.

In early August, Musk was not the only one who wanted to send people into space. The pilot (and then the astronaut) Mike Melville flew into SpaceShipOne, which resembled a bullet in which frog's legs grew, in 2004. After this test flight and two subsequent flights, SpaceShipOne won the X-Prize for $ 10 million. These flights combined two dreams of the New Cosmos: a private craft and cosmonauts. After the victory, Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites developed the high-tech technology SpaceShipTwo. Presented by Virgin in 2009, this passenger vessel was designed to send tourists into space … at the price of an ordinary house. (After all, why have a home forever, if you can go out into space for five minutes ??)

3.5 billion dollars

The value of the first NASA contracts with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences (now part of Northrop Grumman) for the supply of materials to the ISS from 2009 to 2016

Virgin Galactic has always focused on close quarters and short, but frequent flights that remain suborbital. Musk, however, adhered to its original Martian mission. After launching its first rocket into orbit in 2008, SpaceX won a NASA contract to supply buses to the space station and back, and it still delivers cargo to the agency. But the startup really got its feet in 2012 and 2013, when it launched a squat rocket called Grasshopper. Although he did not jump high into the air, he landed back on the launching pad, from where he could climb again (like, say, a grasshopper). This recyclability paved the way for modern reusable Falcon 9 rockets, which went up and down and helped transform the ideal of rocket production from one need to recycling.

Virgin Galaxy

Richard Branson, from Virgin Records to Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Mobile, made money this quarter.

WhiteKnightTwo + SpaceShipTwo

The illuminated Virgin Galactic aircraft carries a space plane that can carry up to six passengers and two pilots right across the edge of space so that they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and an incredible view. Richard Branson hopes to rise to the middle of this year, and tourists will soon follow him.

After the failure of Mars Oasis, Musk’s goal has always been to reduce launch costs. Today, SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable rockets cost 50-60 million dollars – it is still a lot, but less than 100 million dollars of some competitors. The idea that space flight should not be the biggest barrier facing future space travelers. If SpaceX can do this, the company can – someday, theoretically – send to Mars a multitude of shipments of supplies and people who are necessary to comply with the Mask slogan "MAKE LIFE MULTIPLANETARY".

But the path to multi-planarity was not always smooth for SpaceX. His reusable rockets fell into the ocean, overturned into the sea, crashed into barges, overturned onto ships, fell into the air, turned around, exploded in flight and exploded on the launch pad.

Nevertheless, the course of the true New Space never went smoothly, and SpaceX is not the only company facing accidents. For example, Virgin Galactic faced tragedy in 2014, when Pete Siebold pilot and Michael Alsbury co-pilot were in SpaceShipTwo under the WhiteKnight jet.

Blue origin

Jeff Bezos from Amazon, fame and fortune, is still very much married to space exploration.

New shepard

The reusable Blue Origin rocket will take crews and payloads on 11-minute suborbital flights, landing as softly as a feather painted on his body. The goal is to send the first team this year.

New glenn

Blue Origin says it wants this heavy, recyclable rocket to “build a path into space.” This launcher is likely to debut in 2021.

The SpaceShipTwo flight failed as planned. SpaceShipTwo has a “feathering mechanism” which, when unlocked and turned on, slows down the ship so that it can land safely. But Elsbury unlocked him early, and he dragged the ship while his missiles were still firing. Aerodynamic forces tore SpaceShipTwo apart, killing Elsbury. Siebold jumped with a parachute, alive, to the ground. Multiple customers canceled. Most still wanted to fly into space, even though the industry had a higher risk and lower regulation than commercial flights at low altitudes.

Meanwhile, another large corporation, Blue Origin, was quietly working on plans for a human mission. This celestial venture, funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, began in 2000 — before Mask launched SpaceX — but remained rather secretive for many years. Then, during a test launch in April 2015, the reusable rocket New Shepard was launched. He successfully unfolded the capsule, but could not land. However, in November of this year, “New Shepard” did what it was supposed to do: it landed, defeating SpaceX to the goal of launching and landing.

Blue Origin, like Virgin Galactic, wants to use its small rocket to send suborbital space tourists. And she wants, with large rockets like Dick, to help create a permanent lunar colony. Bezos suggested that heavy industry should occur from this planet, in places that already suck, but have useful resources. According to him, the first lunar landing can occur in 2023, when the Earth will become a zone, mainly residential and light industry.

SpaceX has big plans for 2023 too. In September last year, the company announced that in 2023 it would send a Japanese magnate, Yusaku Maesawa, and a bunch of artist friends on a trip to the moon. NASA also entered into a contract with the company and with Boeing to transport astronauts to the ISS and back as part of the crew’s commercial program, which begins human trials later this year.

Nevertheless, despite all the hype around these broad-minded companies, Virgin Galactic remains the only private enterprise that actually sent someone into space in a private car.

The future of private human space flight

The way these companies see the future, they will (humbly, of course) be the ones who normalize space travel – regardless of whether it takes you only through the Karman line or to another celestial body. Space planes take passengers and experiments to suborbital points, landing in less time than necessary to observe The right thing, The rockets will be launched, landed and launched again, sending satellites and transporting physical and biological cargo to the industrial base on the Moon or the Martian base, where the settlers will ensure the preservation of the species, even if there is an apocalypse (nuclear, climate) on earth. firm. Homo Sapiens will show his fate, show himself as a brave pioneer who always knew what it was. And the idea that we do not need to be stuck in one space for all is exciting!

But all of these enterprises are enterprises, not charity councils. Does life make space and seriously interplanetary reality a financial perspective? And, more importantly, is it really desirable?

Let's start with subtle orbital space tourism, such as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. Some economists consider this quite feasible: if we know something about the world, it is that some part of the population will always have too much money, and they will spend it on cool things that are inaccessible to the plebs. However, if such flights become commonplace, their price may fall, and space tourism may follow the development trajectory of commercial aviation, which used to be for the rich and is now home to Spirit Airlines. Some also suggest that longer orbital flights may follow — and overnight stays in comfortable six-star space hotels (an extra star for the space part).

After the appearance of the space hotel market, infrastructure growth may follow. And if you are going to build something behind space, it can be easier and cheaper to build at space, with materials from space, instead of spending billions on the launch of all the necessary materials. Perhaps moon miners and producers could create a protocol, which could lead to some people living there permanently.

Or not. Who knows? I do not see a future like you, and these billionaires, too.

But with a long journey or permanent residence, more complex problems arise than whether it is possible to earn money or whether it is possible to build a pretty city square out of moon dust. The most difficult part of space exploration will always be human.

We, weak creatures, evolved in environment this planet. Mutations and adaptations have arisen to make us uniquely suitable for living here – and so uniquely not suitable for life in space or in Valles Mariners. Too cold or too hot; no air to breathe; You cannot eat potatoes grown in your own shit for the rest of your unnatural life. Your personal germs can affect everything, from digestion to immunity and mood, in ways that scientists don't understand yet, and although they also don't understand how space affects this microbiome, it probably won't be the case if you live on extraterrestrial lands. crater, as it would be in your apartment.

Plus, in low gravity, your muscles relax. The fluids inside you are strangely merging. Drugs do not always work as expected. Your brain shape is changing. Your mind becomes foggy. The backs of your eyeballs are smoothed out. And then there is radiation that can damage tissues, cause cardiovascular diseases, damage your nervous system, cause cancer, or simply cause radiation sickness until death. If your body sustains, you can still lose it to your teammates, miss the house (planetary patient), and you of course to be bored from your skull on a journey and during tedious work.

Perhaps there is a technological future in which we can mitigate all these consequences. В конце концов, многие вещи, которые когда-то были невообразимыми – от вакцин до квантовой механики – теперь довольно хорошо поняты. Но миллиардеры, по большей части, не работают над проблемами людей: когда они говорят о космических городах, они опускают детали – и их деньги идут на физику, а не на биологию.

Они также не так много говорят о стоимости или способах ее компенсации. Но Blue Origin и SpaceX надеются сотрудничать с НАСА (т. Е. Использовать федеральные деньги) для своих отдаленных предприятий, что делает этот вид частного космического полета более to the publicчастное партнерство. Они оба уже получили много миллионов контрактов с НАСА и Министерством обороны на проекты на ближайшую перспективу, такие как запуск спутников национальной безопасности и развитие инфраструктуры, чтобы делать это чаще. Между тем, у Virgin есть подразделение, называемое Virgin Orbit, которое будет отправлять небольшие спутники, и SpaceX стремится создать свое собственное гигантское созвездие для малых спутников, чтобы обеспечить глобальное покрытие сети Интернет. И, по крайней мере, в обозримом будущем, вероятно, их доходы будут по-прежнему поступать в большей степени от спутников, чем от внеземной инфраструктуры. В этом смысле, хотя они и являются «Новым пространством», они просто обычные правительственные подрядчики.


Элон Маск сделал свое первое состояние на PayPal.

Сокол 9 + Дракон

SpaceX также будет доставлять астронавтов и принадлежности к Международной космической станции для НАСА, и после своего путешествия Сокол приземлится сам, а капсула Дракона упадет вниз. Бонус: компания может похвастаться тем, что пассажиры могут устанавливать внутреннюю температуру от 65 до 80 градусов по Фаренгейту. Его первые испытания в экипаже могут состояться в середине 2019 года.

Супер тяжелый + звездный корабль

Ранее называвшийся BFR (Большая Соколевая Ракета или Большая Чертова Ракета, в зависимости от того, с каким человеком вы разговариваете), этот корабль SpaceX и его человеческая капсула должны доставить 100 человек и 150 тонн груза на Красную планету. В январе Маск представил меньший суборбитальный прототип, а его блестящие серебряные бока и винтажная научно-фантастическая форма выглядят так, словно посетителю 50-х годов приснилось, что он стал ракетой. Его первый тест должен состояться где-то в этом году.

Так что, если деньги поблизости более устойчивы, зачем смотреть дальше, чем на околоземную орбиту? Почему бы не заняться прибыльным бизнесом – отправкой спутников или активацией связи? Да, да, человеческий дух. ОК, конечно, живучесть. Оба благородных, возбуждающих цели. Но сторонники также могут быть заинтересованы в создании космических государств международного типа, заполненных людьми, которые могут позволить себе поездку (или, возможно, работниками, работающими по контракту, которые будут работать в обмен на билет). Может быть, небесное население объединится в утопическое общество, свободное от беспорядков, которые мы создали на этой планете. Люди могут начать с нуля где-то еще, набросать что-то новое и лучшее на внеземной почве Табула Раса. Или, может быть, как это происходит на Земле, история повторится, и человеческий багаж станет самым тяжелым грузом на колониальных кораблях. В конце концов, куда бы вы ни пошли, вы там.

Может быть, нам, как виду, было бы лучше, если бы мы оставались дома и смотрели прямо в глаза нашим проблемам. К такому выводу приходит автор научной фантастики Гэри Вестфал в эссе под названием «Дело против космоса». Вестфал не думает, что инновации происходят, когда вы меняете окружение и бежите от своих трудностей, а скорее, когда вы остаетесь и имеете дело с Ситуация, которую вы создали.

Объединенный стартовый альянс и Боинг

Здесь нет миллиардера. Просто военно-промышленный комплекс объединяет силы с собой. В течение последних 15 лет эта ракета имела 100-процентный успех.

Атлас V + Starliner

Ракета Atlas V, созданная United Launch Alliance, совместным предприятием Lockheed Martin и Boeing, объединится с капсулой Boeing CST-100 Starliner для отправки астронавтов и научных экспериментов на МКС. Starliner может летать 10 раз, при условии, что он получает шестимесячный рефрактерный период – для восстановления и испытаний – между каждой поездкой. Его первые испытания в экипаже могут состояться в середине 2019 года.

Кроме того, большинство американцев не думают, что масштабные полеты в космос для людей вообще должны быть национальными, по крайней мере, не с их деньгами. Согласно опросу Pew, проведенному в 2018 году, более 60 процентов людей считают, что главными приоритетами НАСА должны быть мониторинг климата и наблюдение за разрушающими Землю астероидами. Только 18 и 13 процентов думают так же о человеческом путешествии на Марс или Луну соответственно. Люди, другими словами, больше заинтересованы в уходе за this планета, и сохранение жизни на ней, чем они делают в каком-то другом мире пригодным для жизни.

Но, возможно, это не имеет значения: история полна миллиардеров, которые делают то, что они хотят, и она полна социальных поворотов, продиктованных их направлением. Кроме того, если бы даже небольшая часть населения США вступила в долгосрочную космическую миссию, на их космическом корабле все равно было бы самое большое внеземное поселение, когда-либо путешествовавшее по Солнечной системе. И даже если бы это не был оазис или утопия, это был бы гигантский скачок.

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Последнее обновление: 30 января 2019 г.

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